Thursday, December 8, 2011

M*A*S*H: Suicide is Painless

Yesterday, the world lost veteran actor Harry Morgan who is best known for his characterization of Colonel Sherman T. Potter on the televised version of M*A*S*H. The second commandant of the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, Potter replaced Colonel Henry Blake who was portrayed by McLean Stevenson. Morgan made his debut as Potter during the series' fourth season.

For eight seasons, Morgan played the fatherly Colonel Potter – being both loveable and stern when necessary. My first memory of Morgan is his role as Officer Bill Gannon in the late 60s version of “Dragnet” opposite of Jack Webb; however, he had a long career as a film actor prior to his famous TV roles. I always felt he would have been a natural for Robert E. Lee as there was a resemblance between the two; however, that never happened. Morgan died yesterday of complications due to a recent bout with pneumonia. He was 96 years old.

Today’s TV Thursday song is the instrumental version of the theme from the original M*A*S*H motion picture. A vocal version of the song, “Suicide is Painless,” which relates to a suicide in the original motion picture was recorded as an instrumental, as American TV at the time would have not played song that appears to glorify one’s taking his or her own life.

The song was written by Johnny Mandel and Mike Altman, the fourteen year old son of the film’s director Robert Altman. The younger Altman made more in royalties for penning the dark lyrics than did his father for directing the film. The vocal version from the film was a #1 record in the UK and was credited to a contrived group named “The Mash.”

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